ANCHORAGE, Alaska - GOP Senate hopeful Joe Miller hammered away Tuesday at his campaign theme that the federal government must open up Alaska for development as a way out of its deficit spending problems, a plan his two rivals called unrealistic.
Miller has said that the country cannot sustain deficit spending and that Alaska must wean itself off federal dollars because money is rapidly drying up.
The Republican attended a forum sponsored by Rotary Clubs of Anchorage and the Alaska World Affairs Council with his opponents, Democrat Scott McAdams and incumbent Lisa Murkowski, a write-in candidate defeated by Miller in the GOP primary.
Miller said that "things have got to change. The deficit has reached a point where we're on the verge of hitting the same catastrophe that Greece had, that right now Great Britain is experiencing."
He added it was an idea recognized by former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens earlier this year.
Alaska is sitting on a wealth of natural resources, Miller said, and promised to fight for development just as Stevens, who served in the U.S. Senate representing Alaska for 40 years and died this year in a plane crash, fought to bring home federal dollars.
McAdams questioned Miller's ability to follow through on his claims.
"I don't think that his statements are realistic," he said after the forum. "I don't think that Joe's going to be able to caucus with (Sens.) Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn and get any real movement with moving Alaska forward. I think he'll find more opponents in the Senate than he'll find allies."
McAdams suggested he could be more effective as a Democrat in the Senate, changing the culture of the caucus, demonstrating that Alaska is environmentally sound and has a labor tradition allowing working men and women to share in the wealth of extraction.
"When we don't embrace American and Alaskan resource extraction, we export environmental degradation to countries that don't have any governance tradition that allows them to enforce environmental law, a labor tradition that allows them to share in the wealth," he said.
Alaska's delegation for decades has worked to ease regulatory burdens imposed by the federal government, encourage it to convey land promised to the state and Alaska Natives, while at the same time seeking federal money for infrastructure that other states enjoy and that could advance resource development, Murkowski said.
She called Miller's plans simplistic, saying "that's why it's more than just a little bit frustrating to keep hearing him repeat it over and over again, as if it's something that we haven't been doing."
"Sometimes building that infrastructure takes earmarks," she said. "Joe has not made that connection yet."
She said she was not sure how Miller could force areas to be opened for resource extraction, given that the federal government owns two-thirds of Alaska.
"If you listen to him, he's like, 'We'll just get the federal government to give it back to us,'" she said. "I think he spent a lot of time looking at the federal constitution, but perhaps not the state constitution or the state compact."
Miller did not answer questions from local reporters, but took part in a private interview on the convention center patio with a television crew from England and spoke briefly with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow as he was trying to exit the building.
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